Foreign contractors could face prosecution in U.S. courts

Foreign contractors could soon face civil or criminal prosecution in U.S. courts for acts committed overseas.

On Wednesday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved a bill (S. 526) that would require foreign companies working on government contracts to consent to "personal jurisdiction" in U.S. federal courts for civil action or criminal prosecution related to alleged wrongdoing in connection with the contracts.

The legislation, introduced in March 2009 by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., would provide legal protection to any U.S. service member, government employee or American contract employee who alleges an overseas company caused serious bodily injury, including death, rape or sexual assault. Companies failing to appear in court to answer charges could be suspended or debarred from contracting.

The bill is named for Lt. Col. Dominic Baragona, who was commander of the 19th Maintenance Battalion in Iraq when he was killed by a supply truck driven by an employee of Kuwait Gulf and Link Transport Co., a Defense contractor. The Baragona family attempted to sue the company for wrongful death, but the firm successfully argued that American courts lacked jurisdiction.

"It's not right that soldiers can get killed and the contractor can just thumb their nose," McCaskill said at a committee meeting Wednesday.

McCaskill, who held a hearing on the Baragona case last November, said she amended the legislation to address concerns the Pentagon raised about the bill's application and retroactivity.

The committee also approved a bill to change the management of the Census Bureau. The Census Oversight Efficiency and Management Reform Act, sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., would make the job of Census director a five-year term-limited position.

The first term under the legislation would begin on Jan. 1, 2012. Individuals could serve a maximum of two full terms. The Census director would report directly to the secretary of Commerce.

An amendment added by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., would mandate that the qualifications for all Census directors include a demonstrated ability to manage large organizations. Previous directors have been criticized for poor management skills. Committee members praised the qualifications of the bureau's current head, Robert Groves.

In addition, the Carper bill would require the Census director to provide Congress with a plan to examine the feasibility of conducting the 2020 survey online. Lockheed Martin Corp. told the bureau several years ago that it could develop the technology to allow the public to respond to the decennial count through the Internet, but Census concluded in 2007 that the strategy was too risky.

"The technology is there but the agency is behind," Coburn said.

An expected vote on the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act, which would provide federal resources for presidential candidates to begin preparing for a transition before the election, was delayed because of a lack of a quorum.

The committee also:

  • Approved a measure to provide federal fire prevention assistance to state and local governments.
  • Voted to reauthorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency's predisaster hazard mitigation program, which provides grant funding to state and local governments to prepare for natural disasters.
  • Approved the nominations of Dana Katherine Bilyeu and Michael D. Kennedy to serve on the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board.
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.